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What Pet-Owners Need to Clean and Protect Their Furnishings, According to Experts

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If you’ve ever had a cat who likes to turn your couch into a scratching post, or a puppy who pees on the floor (or your expensive shag rug) anytime they get excited, you know that keeping your home clean when you share it with animals is an ongoing struggle. And for those of us who are WFH for the foreseeable future, shedding and other pet messes are much harder to put off dealing with. But that doesn’t mean you need to gate off your living room to keep it tidy.

The first step to maintaining a well-kept home when you share it with a pet is to keep your actual pet clean, according to the experts we spoke with. Regular brushing reduces shedding, and wiping down dogs as soon as they return from a walk prevents them from dragging dirt inside. The second step is choosing vacuums, tools, and cleaning products specifically designed to tackle pet messes. You may also want to cover certain upholstery with machine-washable blankets. Below, we’ve listed the best equipment and cleaners for dog and cat owners, according to our experts — all of whom also stress that proper training will go a long way toward preventing pets’ destructive behaviors.

Best products for cleaning dogs post-walk

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All dogs need exercise, and whether it’s raining or sunny outside, they can return dragging dirt, mud, or other outdoor grime indoors. That filth can quickly soil your carpet, furniture, or car, which is why Samantha Schwab, a pet expert with Chewy, advises putting a mat outside your door, where you can clean your pooch off before it sets foot in the house. For even less mess, she recommends a machine-washable and “ultra-absorbent, shammy dog mat.” This one comes in six sizes and doubles as a towel so you can wipe down your pet no matter how big it is.

Nicole Ellis, a dog-training and product expert with Rover, uses these wipes to give dogs an even deeper scrub after they return from walks. “They are very safe for your pet’s feet, as well as their muzzle, ears, and other body parts.” The wipes are also antimicrobial, so your pup won’t bring in any germs.

Schwab also likes using disposable wipes to clean dogs after an outdoor adventure. “Cleaning your pet’s paws with wipes allows you to get into the nooks and crannies,” she says. These have vitamin E and aloe vera, which will help condition skin.

This dishwasher-safe tool is another easy way to clean dirty paws, according to both Schwab and Ashley Renne, host of her own show on Smart Healthy Green Living, a new streaming service, and owner of a 65-pound husky. “It’s basically like a washing machine for paws,” says Schwab. Simply fill the BPA-free container with water, slip each of your pet’s paws inside it, and gently use the thing’s interior silicone bristles to scrub each paw clean.

Ellis “loves Funky Pet Zones’ all-natural sprays on everything from dogs’ paws to their body” after they’ve been outdoors. The products are made from food-grade, non-toxic ingredients, and leave animals smelling fresh. This particular spray uses a blend of shea butter and coconut oil to neutralize any unwanted odors.

Best brushes to reduce shedding

Fur-covered furniture is a telltale sign of a home with pets, and “good grooming is the first step to limiting shedding,” says Ellis. “Set some time aside at night to brush your pet out, removing any loose fur that will otherwise stick to the couch.” She likes this gentle tool, which catches loose fur without pulling on hair that’s still attached to your furry friend’s body.

Renne maintains her dog’s double coat with this undercoat rake, followed by a slicker brush once a week. (De-shedding tools can damage the healthy topcoat layer if used incorrectly, and huskies like hers need that topcoat to regulate the temperature of their bodies.)

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Both Ellis and Renne recommend picking up “a high-quality slicker brush,” a tool with tightly packed bristles designed to penetrate an animal’s topcoat. This one “can be used on both long- and short-haired dogs and is effective at removing loose fur,” Schwab says. It’ll also help detangle hair and remove matted clumps, and it’s easy to clean: Just push a button to depress the bristles, leaving only the hair to remove.

Cat-owner Elizabeth Gumport already told us the Furminator brush is an excellent tool to prevent shedding and hairballs, and Emily Adamson, a Dogtown groomer with Best Friends Animal Society, seconds that opinion. Adamson recommends using it on your pet’s topcoat, but only once or twice a week, because “over-Furminating” can irritate an animal’s skin.

Best products to prevent scratching

Sticky Paws on a Roll

Cats instinctively scratch surfaces to shed dead layers of their claws and mark their territory through scent. The sides of sofas and chairs are especially appealing as scratching posts, because they also allow cats to get a good stretch in. To deter this behavior, Ellis recommends Sticky Paws tape, a double-sided tape that cats hate the feeling of (and that won’t damage your furniture when you pull it off). Use it enough, and your cat will soon learn the sofa is off-limits.

Steering cats to a proper scratching post is imperative while you’re training them not to scratch the furniture. “Place one or two cat scratchers near your couch to help divert their attention,” says Schwab, who suggests choosing a scratcher that best suits your cat (they can come as toys, posts, or beds). A vertical post like this might do the trick for cats that like to stretch and scratch the side or legs of a sofa. Ellis recommends using catnip to generate interest when introducing a new scratching tool — and always rewarding kitties with treats when they use it instead of furniture.

Best products to prevent chewing

If you have a puppy at home, chances are you also have a chewing problem. Kiki Reginato, Strategist associate director of e-commerce, shares her home with a 6-month-old Labrador mix named Rusty who has chewed chairs, tables, wall trim, plants, and an endless number of sneakers. After hearing good things about this bitter-apple spray from a friend, she gave it a try — and it saved her remaining chair legs. Dogs don’t like the bitter taste and will soon learn to avoid it.

This is another spray that kept Rusty from chewing stuff around the house. Reginato sprayed the lavender hand sanitizer on a table leg as a test, and Rusty was immediately disgusted and wouldn’t go near it. “Now we keep bottles of Dr. Bronner’s in every room of the house,” she says.

Best protective coverings for furniture